a. Report From Attu
In camouflage, as in all other matters, there is a wide difference between
theory and practice. To the question, "What camouflage technique proved most
effective as used by you?" four Attu casualties, all enlisted men, replied, "We
were too busy fighting to have any time to worry about camouflage." However,
further inquiry disclosed that moss was put on the helmet-nets and mud on their
faces. A white sheet was effective on a snow background -- when not used to clean
rifles -- and a reversible parka, brown on one side, white on the other, was effective
among rocks with patches of bare snow among them -- a hospital tent camouflaged
with the combination of chicken feathers on wire netting was practically invisible
a few feet away.
Soldiers reported that the use of tracer bullets served only to give away
a position. The Japanese did not use them. The Japanese, particularly when they
held the higher ground, hid their trenches and fox-holes by covering the mound
of excavated dirt very carefully with tundra. From a lower elevation, it was
practically impossible to see such a foxhole. They too, used the white-sheet
camouflage in the snow. Grass was used to camouflage buildings.
b. German Practice in Africa
In Tunisia, the Germans sited positions for concealment even when it meant
overcoming considerable natural difficulties. While they used no special camouflage
tactics with which we are not familiar, nor possessed any equipment superior to
our own, their camouflage discipline was excellent. Tracks and litter were kept
well under control. The use of alternative positions for mobile equipment was
general. The nets used to cover their vehicles were lightly garnished, and
employed for the most part to support brush or other local material threaded in.
Artillery camouflage was unusually good, with brush-wood hedges as the
principal material. Guns so protected were hard to spot, as the German powder,
while it produces a flash, is quite smokeless. In settled communities, guns would
be placed in gardens or private houses; carefully covered with shrubbery, they
defied anything but almost point-blank observation from both air and ground. At
Bizerte, bamboos, iron-shod at both ends were found upon which netting was
stretched and used to cover emplacements. These frames were of different sizes
and worked on simple hinges around the emplacements so that they could be quickly
pushed off the guns or swung back into position. Local foliage supplied the
garnishment. No camouflage was wasted on targets located on conspicious landmarks
such as those in Bizerte harbor.
c. German Airfield Camouflage
There is no stereotyped layout for German advanced landing fields. Of those
inspected, as little as possible had been done in order not to disturb the ground
surface. In only one had attempt been made to level the site and here, light
scraping and harrowing had been done through the various crops. No runways had
been cut or tracks laid -- the crops had not been destroyed -- only their growth was
retarded. An air reconnaissance proved that the runway so prepared was very
difficult to spot.
(2) Dispersals and Blast Pens
Dispersal was over a large area and blast pens were almost always used.
Two or three were usually placed adjacent to the landing strip within easy access.
Located in banks or on a hillside, or among olive groves according to the country,
the rest were dispersed over a wide area. On one airfield, the dispersal was
carefully concealed around a large grove with the airplanes pushed in between the
trees around the edge. Air reconnaissance showed that well located blast pens
were not easy to distinguish.
The use of dummies and decoys is as old as warfare. In Tunisia, there is
evidence that German dummy positions successfully drew our fire. In Attu the
hoary trick of holding up a helmet to draw fire produced no results and the only
successful decoys were our junior officers who exposed themselves to draw fire.
The Japanese did the same, to focus attention on one position or foxhole while
others were moving to some other location.